Testing the Job Market

We recently played around with the recruiting process by looking at a few resources that we are asked about. Here’s what we did and the results we found.

Retained Executive Search Firms. These firms find candidates for specific companies with job openings who retain their services. We identified the top 10 firms in Atlanta and sent them several resumes to understand what would happen. We also contacted some of their executives directly through email to pitch our situation and get a response.   The response from going online, setting up an account and submitting resumes was as expected. It was simple and nothing happened. However, once we began sending email directly to their leadership with our credentials attached, something unexpected happen. Before I begin to describe their response, it’s important to note that most of the emails we sent did not get a response. Repeated emails did not improve that either.

For the managers that did respond, we were surprised to see that in a few cases, they suggested we contact another company. One response was “well, that’s only about 20% of our business. You should go check out another company.” They did provide the name of a company. Over and over again, the firm’s leaders did not provide anything useful at all. They either said, sign up on our website or go somewhere else. That’s not what we were hoping for but in this little study, it seemed to be the standard response.

After we spent a little time on their website, reviewing their openings, it became clear that most of these firms serve the academic market. Obviously, academia has become a huge market. So much so that most firms we connected with listed academic positions as their most recent accomplishments.

VC firms. This resource isn’t something most people chase but it does exist. Venture Capitalist firms fund startups, early stage organizations, expansion, and mergers and acquisitions. While they typically work closely with entrepreneurs, they also stay connected to a group of managers and leaders who make themselves available to run the companies they fund for some length of time, which can be months to years. We looked up 5 firms in Atlanta and tried to reach out to them. Only one response from an administrator that said they didn’t deal with hiring managers. We also tried to reach them directly but no replies were provided.

Executives.  We know that many executives use search firms to help them find their next big assignment. So, we tapped the shoulders of a few executives to ask who they use and would they make a recommendation to their search firm for us. Strange thing about these search firms is that they don’t just work with anyone. The best way to get in is to have a referral. We tested this a few times and had good results with the executives that would work with us. You may find, however, that executives don’t like to give up information about how they get their jobs. It’s like showing your cards to everyone in a poker game. Your challenge with this resource is finding executives who will help you. This will almost be a mass marketing exercise, meaning that you will need to reach out to many executives to get a little bit of support.

Headhunters.  These are the free ones. You know, the resume banks. They work directly with companies who pay them to make recommendations for interviews by perusing through a stack of resumes they’ve collected. In our interactions with several, we received lots of encouragement from them with phrases like “if we see a match, we’ll get in touch with you.” To be successful with these guys, you need to build relationships with them over time. Otherwise, it’s a passive approach to finding a job.

Job Boards. This resource includes sites like Monster, ExecuNet, Linkedin, Ladders, etc. Many of these sites have a free sign up or are free altogether. We’ve tried out a few and didn’t find anything useful from them. We basically confirmed the old age that “anything worth having won’t be given to you.” Free service on these sites just means no service. Some of these sites have pay for service options as well but we found most of these to focus more on helping you with your resume, interview tips and job search methods. I think you can find most of that for free on the Internet already.

If there is one thing you need to know about the job search is that it is a business for most of the resources you will use. These resources have to be paid and this funding often comes from the companies doing the hiring. Don’t ever get the idea that they are working specifically for you, even when you are paying them. These companies make money by promoting the idea that they have influence on the companies (and maybe some do). Your best bet is to network with employees inside the company and gain their support in promoting you to hiring managers. Before you start the networking process, make sure you have a well-defined personal brand. Selling yourself is difficult today and if you don’t have a well-tuned communication plan, people will lose interest in you. Oh, you may also want to consider using many of the old techniques such as actually meeting people and talking about opportunities. Make it personal. I know we all consider the job search to be formal and rigid, but it isn’t. It’s often informal and very personal.

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